Just when you think you know someone...

The other night, my wife and I were skimming through the TV channels when we happened upon “Every Which Way But Loose,” the 1978 Clint Eastwood movie where he plays Philo Beddoe, a bare-knuckles brawler whose sidekick is an orangutan named Clyde.

Upon my insistence (I had the remote), we watched for a few minutes, and then my wife of 20 years offered this shocker: “That orangutan once slapped me when I was a kid.”

What? 

After my seizure stopped, she explained how, when she was a child, the orangutan that played Clyde made an appearance in Tifton. She went to it with her mother. When she saw Clyde, she  ran straight up to him. Clyde, in a defensive move, slapped her.

She said that extinguished much of her enthusiasm for meeting Clyde.

I was astonished.

“We’ve been married for 20 years and this is the first time you’ve mentioned that you were slapped by perhaps the most famous monkey in the world?”

“I didn’t think it was a big deal,” was her response.

Big deal? I’ve told her a million times about living down the street from actress Diane Lane when I was a kid, and she never thought to tell me of this brush – actually, slap – with celebrity? What else hasn’t she been telling me? 

Thus began the inquisition.

“What other famous monkeys have you met?”

None, she claimed.  Obviously, if she failed to think meeting Clyde the Orangutan was substantial  enough to mention, I needed to probe further.

“What about Bubbles? Michael Jackson’s chimp? Do you know him?”

“No.”

“How about that chimpanzee from ‘B.J. and the Bear’?”

“No” was again her response.

“You know, I think that show would have been a lot more popular if the show’s name wasn’t so confusing – B.J. and the Bear. The show was about a trucker and his pet chimp. I think naming the chimp “Bear” was a tactical error. Why not name it ‘Charlie and the Chimp’? Who wouldn’t want to watch that?”

“Yeah, I know,” she replied. “You’ve mentioned that before.”

“Did you ever meet, or were attacked by, any other famous animals?”

“No.”

“How about Gus, the field-goal kicking mule? Did he ever kick you?”

“No.”

“Spuds McKenzie?,” I queried. “That dog from the Budweiser commercials. Did he ever bite you?”

“No.”

“Beethoven? The St. Bernard from the movies? Ever meet him? Or that other guy named Beethoven, the composer?”

“No and no.”

“Have you ever met or interacted with another famous animal, other than Clyde?”

“I pet UGA,” she said.

“Yeah, I was there with you. That was five years ago.”

“Any other celebrities you’ve met, without me being present?”

She replied negatively, then reiterated that she didn’t mention her encounter with Clyde because she didn’t think it was significant.

What she doesn’t realize, which I explained in detail to her, was that meeting a famous monkey is a great, perhaps ideal, conversation starter.

“Have you met my wife? She was once slapped by Clyde the Orangutan?”

Social conversations immediately shift into full throttle with that introduction. And it also serves as a litmus test. If a person between the ages of 40-and-90 doesn’t know who Clyde the Orangutan is, I probably don’t want to talk to them anyway, and I can move on to someone with a finer appreciation of cinema.

As I ended my lecture/interrogation, I remembered another famous animal.

“Oh, one more. Have you ever met Fred (the basset hound from ‘Smokey and the Bandit’)?”

“Who?”

... Just when you think you know someone.